Studies in Modern Literature: Urban Symphonies: Music, Noise, and Modernism

Course Number: ENGL 187US
Prerequisites: Check on GOLD
Advisory Enrollment Information: May be repeated for credit providing letter designations are different.
General Education Areas Fulfilled: Check on GOLD
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 187AA-ZZ
Quarter: Winter 2011
Day(s): MW
Time: 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: PHELPS 3515

May be repeated for credit to a maximum of 28 units provided letter designations are different.

With its loud noises, bright lights, and hyperstimulated pace, the modern city drives much of the literature, art, film, and sociology of the early twentieth century. The modern city seemed to hold its subjects in thrall, even seeming to change their experiences of time and space. Films such as Fritz Lang's METROPOLIS and novels such as Woolf's MRS. DALLOWAY show the participants of urbanity move and interact in an almost choreographed manner; musical compositions such as Edgard Varèse's AMÈRIQUES, George Antheil's BALLET MÉCANIQUE (and Fernand Léger's film of the same name), and Erik Satie's PARADE use street noises and sirens as musical instruments--in all three cases, much to the consternation of their audiences. In this course we will discuss the aesthetic as well as the cultural/historical issues attendant to modernist treatments of the city. What are the effects of the city on the human body, and how do our main texts convey them? How does jazz and jazz poetry (e.g. Hughes' MONTAGE OF A DREAM DEFERRED) treat urban life, and how do contemporary responses to jazz reflect demographic changes in the city? How do these artworks relate the problems of the modern city to those of "primitive" prehistory? (T.S. Eliot heard, in Stravinsky's pagan ballet THE RITE OF SPRING, not the sounds of a pastoral ritual but rather the transformed "barbaric cries" of urbanity.) What techniques does the modernist text use to translate the sensory overload of the city? How do writers, musicians, and filmmakers use their respective art forms, and how do they fray the boundaries of genre?